Relationship between serum B12 concentrations and mortality: Experience in NHANES

Bruce H.R. Wolffenbuttel, M. Rebecca Heiner-Fokkema, Ralph Green, Rijk O.B. Gans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: There is conflicting evidence in the literature on the association between (elevated) serum B12 concentrations and subsequent disease or mortality. We evaluated in the NHANES general population the association of serum B12 concentrations as well as vitamin B12 supplement intake with all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer-related mortality, while taking into account demographic and lifestyle factors and significant other diseases which are known to be associated with poorer outcome. Methods: The main outcomes of our study were all-cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality, and cancer-related mortality. Mortality status and cause of death were determined by NHANES-linked National Death Index public access files through December 31, 2015. The association of serum B12 concentrations and vitamin B12 supplement intake with mortality was assessed with Cox proportional hazard (PH) models, with adjustment for a number of relevant demographic and lifestyle factors and comorbidity. Results: The final study population of 24,262 participants had a mean age of 48 (SD 19) years; 50.1% were males. The median follow-up duration was 109 months (range 1-201 months). On the census day of December 31, 2015, 3023 participants were determined as deceased (12.5%). The fully adjusted Cox PH model indicated that low serum B12 concentrations < 140 pmol/l were associated with a small increase in all-cause (hazard ratio, HR 1.39, 95% CI 1.08-1.78, p = 0.011) and cardiovascular (HR 1.64, 95% CI 1.08-2.47, p = 0.020) mortality. Similarly, high serum B12 concentrations > 700 pmol/l were associated with an increase in cardiovascular mortality only (HR 1.45, 95% CI 1.01-2.06, p = 0.042). Participants with a diagnosis of hypertension, dyslipidemia, CVD, and cancer more frequently used vitamin B12-containing supplements than those without these diagnoses. We could not demonstrate an association between vitamin B12 supplement intake and mortality, when adjusted for comorbidity. Conclusions: In the general population of NHANES, low serum B12 concentrations were associated with a moderate increase in all-cause mortality. There was a small but significant increase in cardiovascular mortality in the groups with low or high serum B12. High intake of vitamin B12 in the form of supplements was not associated with any adverse effect on mortality and therefore can be regarded as safe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number307
JournalBMC Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 9 2020


  • Epidemiology
  • Mortality
  • Prognosis
  • Supplement
  • Vitamin B12

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Relationship between serum B12 concentrations and mortality: Experience in NHANES'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this